Drought joins U.S. farmers in the field for spring planting
By Charles Abbott
Thu Feb 14, 2013
* U.S. Plains and western Corn Belt suffer the most
* Winter wheat, cattle, hay are at greatest risk
* Bumper crops possible despite early dryness, say USDA
* Record $16 billion-$17 billion crop insurance cost in 2012 drought
WASHINGTON, Feb 14 (Reuters) – U.S. farmers will plant crops this spring under the shadow of a persistent drought that grips prime farmland from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains, with grain supplies already tight from drought losses in 2012.
In all, 56 percent of the contiguous United States is under moderate to exceptional drought, twice the usual amount, the Senate Agriculture Committee was told on Thursday.
Arid weather was expected to run until May in the wheat-growing Plains and in the western Corn Belt, where corn and soybeans are the major crops.
“In fact, we are forecasting drier conditions,” said Roger Pulwarty, director of the National Integrated Drought Information System, a federal agency. Above-normal rainfall benefited the southern Plains at the start of this year.
Wheat, corn and soybeans are the most widely grown U.S. crops and form the foundation of the U.S. food supply. They are used in livestock rations and as ingredients in food ranging from salad dressing to bread, breakfast cereal and cookies.
MOST OF WINTER WHEAT IS UNDER DROUGHT